Web of Secrets [Modern Cultivation]

Web of Secrets [Modern Cultivation]

by David Musk

Warning This fiction contains:
  • Gore
  • Profanity

A hacker uses her unique skills to unlock the secrets of Mana Arts.

Mana Artists rule the world, and the path to power is a well-kept secret, restricted to state-approved programs and universities.

Akari Zeller will never be a Mana Artist. Not if society has its way. She's a Bronze with no money, no family, and no connections. But technology is advancing too. And to a skilled hacker like Akari, no secret is safe forever. The dark web holds the keys to true power, advancement, and her only chance of survival.

Web of Secrets on davidmusk.com

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David Musk

David Musk


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Top List #200
Table of Contents
140 Chapters
Chapter Name Release Date
Map and Characters ago
Chapter 1: Mana Arts ago
Chapter 2: Life as a Bronze ago
Chapter 3: Elegan High ago
Chapter 4: Secret Meetings ago
Chapter 5: The Reign of Golds ago
Chapter 6: The Outside World ago
Chapter 7: Space and Time ago
Chapter 8: Cerulean Beach ago
Chapter 9: The Dark Web ago
Chapter 10: Out of Mana ago
Chapter 11: Staying Alive ago
Chapter 12: A Proper Missile ago
Chapter 13: The Sight of Blood ago
Chapter 14: Into the Tunnels ago
Chapter 15: Battle Tactics ago
Chapter 16: No Middle Ground ago
Chapter 17: The Aftermath ago
Chapter 18: Midwinter Break ago
Chapter 19: Deception ago
Chapter 20: Apprentice ago
Chapter 21: A Safe City ago
Chapter 22: White Vale ago
Chapter 23: Beyond Gold ago
Chapter 24: A Flock of Birds ago
Chapter 25: Bounties ago
Chapter 26: The Contested Area ago
Chapter 27: Target Practice ago
Chapter 28: Life and Death ago
Chapter 29: Martial Interrogation ago
Chapter 30: Risks ago
Chapter 31: A Dying Flame ago
Chapter 32: Back to Elegan ago
Chapter 33: A Gold's Demand ago
Chapter 34: Something Greater ago
Chapter 35: Unbreakable ago
Chapter 36: Choices ago
Chapter 37: Beneath the Ice ago
Chapter 38: A Perfect Nightmare ago
Chapter 39: Bloodline ago
Chapter 40: Graduation ago
Chapter 41: Escape ago
Chapter 42: Fugitives ago
Chapter 43: Rebel Base ago
Chapter 44: The Peak of Bronze ago
Chapter 45: Into the Prison ago
Chapter 46: Cell Thirteen ago
Chapter 47: Pinned Down ago
Chapter 48: The Grandmaster ago
Chapter 49: To the Sky ago
Chapter 50: Keylas ago
Chapter 51: Silver ago
Chapter 52: Never Hesitate ago
Epilogue: Family ago
Updated Character Sheets ago
Book 2 - Chapter 1: Castaways ago
Book 2 - Chapter 2: Costa Liberta ago
Book 2 - Chapter 3: Grevandi ago
Book 2 - Chapter 4: Falling Leaves ago
Book 2 - Chapter 5: Civil War ago
Book 2 - Chapter 6: The Nature of Dreams ago
Book 2 - Chapter 7: Last Haven ago
Book 2 - Chapter 8: Synthesis ago
Book 2 - Chapter 9: Left Behind ago
Book 2 - Chapter 10: Survival Instincts ago
Book 2 - Chapter 11: Catacombs ago
Book 2 - Chapter 12: The Dragonlord ago
Book 2 - Chapter 13: The Unmarked ago
Book 2 - Chapter 14: Blade Arts ago
Book 2 - Chapter 15: A Dangerous Game ago
Book 2 - Chapter 16: Smuggling ago
Book 2 - Chapter 17: Ruthless ago
Book 2 - Chapter 18: Shardbreaker ago
Book 2 - Chapter 19: Space and Time ago
Book 2 - Chapter 20: The First Move ago
Book 2 - Chapter 21: A Merciless World ago
Book 2 - Chapter 22: The Deal ago
Book 2 - Chapter 23: A Worthy Goal ago
Book 2 - Chapter 24: Intermediate Alchemy ago
Book 2 - Chapter 25: Death Artist ago
Book 2 - Chapter 26: Action ago
Book 2 - Chapter 27: Preparations ago
Book 2 - Chapter 28: A Moonless Night ago
Book 2 - Chapter 29: The Front Lines ago
Book 2 - Chapter 30: House of Cards ago
Book 2 - Chapter 31: A Perfect Blade ago
Book 2 - Chapter 32: Forged in War ago
Book 2 - Chapter 33: Just a Game ago
Book 2 - Chapter 34: Worse Than Dying ago
Book 2 - Chapter 35: A Real Mana Artist ago
Book 2 - Chapter 36: Soul Oaths ago
Book 2 - Chapter 37: Down Without a Fight ago
Book 2 - Chapter 38: True Power ago
Book 2 - Chapter 39: Change ago
Book 2 - Chapter 40: Safe and Sound ago
Book 2 - Epilogue: Revenge ago
Book 3 - Prologue: Worth Remembering ago
Book 3 - Chapter 1: Bad News ago
Book 3 - Chapter 2: New Identities ago
Book 3 - Chapter 3: Underdog ago
Book 3 - Chapter 4: Artificial Intelligence ago
Book 3 - Chapter 5: Weekend Excursions ago
Book 3 - Chapter 6: Battle Arts ago
Book 3 - Chapter 7: Admissions ago
Book 3 - Chapter 8: Behind the Mask ago
Book 3 - Chapter 9: Welcome Week ago
Book 3 - Chapter 10: Soulshine or Death ago
Book 3 - Chapter 11: Not a Game ago
Book 3 - Chapter 12: Destiny ago
Book 3 - Chapter 13: Worst Fears ago
Book 3 - Chapter 14: Factions ago
Book 3 - Chapter 15: Soul Searching ago
Book 3 - Chapter 16: Clean Slate ago
Book 3 - Chapter 17: Test Results ago
Book 3 - Chapter 18: Alliances ago
Book 3 - Chapter 19: Midterms ago
Book 3 - Bloopers ago
Book 3 - Chapter 20: The Power Plant ago
Book 3 - Chapter 21: Two Down ago
Book 3 - Chapter 22: White Mist ago
Book 3 - Chapter 23: Expression ago
Book 3 - Chapter 24: Theoretical Aspects ago
Book 3 - Chapter 25: Ethics of Combat ago
Book 3 - Chapter 26: Apocalypse ago
Book 3 - Chapter 27: Betrayals ago
Book 3 - Chapter 28: The Darkest Side ago
Book 3 - Chapter 29: Wandering ago
Book 3 - Chapter 30: A Promise of Peace ago
Book 3 - Chapter 31: Middle Ground ago
Book 3 - Chapter 32: Battle Mana ago
Book 3 - Chapter 33: Hideout ago
Book 3 - Chapter 34: One Alliance ago
Book 3 - Chapter 35: Hunted ago
Book 3 - Chapter 36: Trust ago
Book 3 - Chapter 37: The Cult of Solidor ago
Book 3 - Chapter 38: The Library ago
Book 3 - Chapter 39: Top of the Class ago
Book 3 - Chapter 40: Chaos ago
Book 3 - Chapter 41: A Thousand Eyes ago
Book 3 - Chapter 42: The Water Tower ago

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On a positive note Modern Cultivation has excellent style and grammar. All the dialogue flows, no awkward phrasing, I'd put this at the level of a published paperback novel on that front.

The characters are all decently written in the sense that I can invision them as real people with distinct voices etc. My gripes are exclusive to the plot/structure of the narrative.

Characters are robbed of agency very early and it never comes back. Considering the power leveling themes in the story this is a huge fumble. If a character gets stronger, but due to forces beyond their control, or because they "already had the power all along" they haven't gotten stronger at all. It's an unearned illusion of progress. Even the main characters motivation is foisted upon them by outside sources. 

Via dreams of the future/past.


In addition, I can't help but feel that the storyingtelling is underhanded. The antagonists have complete control, yet refuse to do anything to stop the main characters because the plot must go on. Main characters blunder their way though the story making constant mistakes yet somehow are never held accountable. In every confrontation the antagonist is one step ahead even when it makes no sense. There's even a fake out death.

(not sure why they'd even bother with a fake out death of the main character)


Highly manipulative in general. It's paced like a decent story, the author knows how to keep the tension high, but it's all a cheap trick. The world has almost no internal consistancy, which means that the author is not bound by logic. If in the next chapter magical snails came riding to the rescue i'd have not choice but to believe it's possible in the world. Anything could happen, nothing is real. I fully expect at some point the MC will gain infinite power through "enlightenment" at a critical moment that completely bails the author out of planning anything out.

If you're not a fan of "it's all a dream plots" don't bother with this one. 


Not quite Xianxia, not quite YA, but worth reading

Reviewed at: Book 2 - Chapter 26: Action

It's difficult for me to explain why exactly I'll probably drop the story at some point, but I'll definitely attempt to. 

First off, the premise sounded very good when I stumbled upon the story. Xianxia Cultivation, but in a modern setting? Learning through Dark Web? Those were two things that made me read it. Unfortunately, I don't think the story manages to live up to its premise. Or rather, the premise wasn't what the story has to offer. Dark Web turns out to be a rather minor part, barely explored at all. Unfortunate, but that's that. But that's just one thing. The problem with the story not being Xianxia is much, much more difficult to explain.

Xianxia is generally a story about cultivation in pursuit of immortality. Of course, a typical Xianxia has also specific Ancient China setting with major eastern cultural influences. Dao, striving against the heavens, the entire schtick. It's not wrong to not include it, these days people actually expect to have some interesting divergence from the pattern, i.e. Beware of Chicken. Honestly, there's more parodies of Xianxia than actual Xianxias these days. But this story rejects almost all of that. 

The society is a modern one, with people behaving like Europeans or Americans. The only Asian influence that I noticed is that the ethnicity of one part of the population appears to be Asian, but under a different name, with some architectural eastern influences in their houses. Striving for immortality appears to be entirely out of the picture. Cultivation is not even a thing, for plot reasons.

To explain it thoroughly I'd need to analyse the entire story, so let's say this: This story does not appear to be about cultivation. It's somewhat significant to the plot, but it is not what's important. Some people might disagree with this view of the story and it's fine, but that's fine. The story not being about cultivation leads us to another question what the story is about?

The start of the story points towards a young woman who, being the lowest of the low, strives to cultivate against everyone and everything, searching for secrets of being a Cultivator however she can, trying to dig it up from Dark Web.

That's a fascinating story and one I intended to read. But it's not what Web of Secrets is. 

WoS is a somewhat typical Young Adult story about a young woman rebelling against the government and society, while also trying to dismantle the Big Lie (if you read any popular dystopian story, then you know what I mean). It also has a power system which in this setting appears to be Cultivation, but it's not central to the story. 

And this is Web of Secrets' problem, it tries to be both a YA mystery story, while also being a Cultivation story. The result is frustratingly uneven, as the cultivation part ends up being dwarfed by the YA part.

To say that this is frustrating is extreme euphemism. Because the writing is shockingly good at times. Characters' actions and reasoning are unironically head and shoulders above overwhelming majority of webfictions, the effort put into the story is also clearly visible. One person said that the story could be a printed book and no one would be surprised at its quality, and it's absolutely true. 

But the setting didn't convince me. I don't think I've read other modern Xianxias although I've heard of them, but in this instance the mash-up doesn't seem to work. It appears to have too many holes, but the discussion about this would also be frustrating due to what the first book is about, and the overarching plot.

This review is already getting too long, so I'll just get to why I might drop the story the story:

- Characters are mildly interesting, but the main character is the most, and the story's attempts to put more weight on the others and their PoVs succeed only in scaring me away as while I don't think those characters are bad, I simply don't want to read about them. 

- The cultivation part of the story is very slow and subservient to not as interesting story, and the journey the character has made from Volume 1 to Volume 2 makes me believe that it will take way too long for any significant development, I'm not here for crumbs. The fact that the characters in the story express very compelling cultivation mindsets about self-growth that most Xianxias actually forget to mention makes the entire thing even more frustrating.

- I disliked the new setting in Volume 2. I think I understand what the author tried to achieve, but after the events of the first volume characters arriving in somewhat similar place sapped energy out of me. 

- I really dislike the fight scenes. They bored me, and after a few I couldn’t force myself to read them, so I just skimmed, especially in Volume 2.



I wrote all of this while just a few chapters into Volume 2. Up to that point I would say that Web of Secrets tries to connect a few different things into one unified body, creating something more than the sum of its parts, but instead ending up with a well-made Frankenstein monster. Now that I caught up - to be sure I give the story a fair treatment - I still stand by a lot of what I said, although I recognize that the situation may be improved. The frustrating part is that while this really isn't a good cultivation story, this is a good story. It has flaws, but it's seriously decent. Just not as a progression fantasy story. 

Additionally, It must be mentioned that inspirations Cradle are clear as day to anyone who read it, so a few comparisons are in order, as the author tries to imitate it to a degree. however, WoS divorces itself from classic Xianxia far more than Cradle, like a bastard from a diluted bloodline.

First, Volume 1 is definitely better than the first Cradle book, following similar pattern of events, but first Cradle book was rather bad (painfully average may be the best description), so it's not that big of an achievement, but it raises the hopes for the future.

Volume 2 (I think it's at its mid-point right now?) also appears to be better than the second book of Cradle so far, but at the same time it doesn't make me as interested in reading, as the worldbuilding isn't as thought out as in Cradle, resulting in a world that I know next to nothing about and at this point feel disinclined to learn more. The biggest problem with this is due to the Author's confusing worldbuilding elements from his other story, Aeonica. I haven't read it. But the author doesn't care and keeps injecting tidbits from it that I don't understand. The majority of commenters appear to understand it due to reading Aeonica. To me it was a frustration, because the characters talk about something I have zero idea about. The author writing a worldbuilding blog post to shed some light on the issue wasn't reliving, but instead felt like salt rubbed into the wound, if there are relevant informations about the world that I need to understand what's going (or at least to not feel frustrated) they should be within the story, not outside of it. If the intention was to evoke the felling of mystery, then the only thing it evoked was frustration.

Still, the story has some real potential. If the author goes and rewrites Book 1 before publishing, then I'd expect it to have as warm reception as the Cradle series (although not in the same reader group, as the aesthetics and story type are different).

This is already going too long, and a lot of it is just stream of consciousness, probably no one is going to read it, but I had to throw this out of me. I'm probably going to keep with the story up to Volume 2 finale to decide whether it's worth reading further, but so far, I can't say I’ve wasted my time with this. Also, I give the story five stars due to the way RR's weird rating works, but the real rating is below.




It's not really a cultivation story, neither it is Xianxia. More focused on characters and story than progression, the latter is subservient to the story, not the focus. Like Cradle, but with much less focus on cultivation.

Overall rating for the story so far, including both volumes, is 6.8/10 (which is pretty damn good to me).


PS: The worldbuilding article for the differences between Aeons and Artists says the cut-off mana for Apprentice is 600, instead of new 800. And the article for Mana Ranks doesn't have colon before Apprentice's 800 (Mana Required 800), which particularly sticks out as it's the only line to not have it, and I'd assume most people would look at that rank first.


Cultivation on Mysterious semi-modern Island

Reviewed at: Chapter 27: Target Practice

The story starts focused on a female MC in foster care who has it tough. She is determined to cultivate beyond her 'bronze' category and unlock the potential within herself. Setting-wise, she is on an island with an exciting mix of modern and cultivator-style technology, including chi-missle wands and computer hacking and surveillance.  

The story continues away from the very interesting MC by introducing more about the setting and switching perspectives to other cookie-cutter characters (like the wealthy young master alchemist). The author is driving a 'what is outside the island arc' full blast forward when I am interested in the original female MC's struggle to move from 'bronze' to 'silver.'

While I enjoyed the first 15ish chapters, I increasingly believe the story I want to read and the story the author wants to write are different stories.  Since I once followed this, leaving a review as thanks and encouragement.  May come back and try reading again with new expectations if this project finishes.  


Web of Secrets is like the love child of Street Cultivation, Mother of Learning, and Cradle. I love all three of these stories so I think this is high praise. If you don´t like these series still give it a shot! It's not a copy of them by any means. It just reminds me of them and is the best comparisons I can make but rest assured it is it's own work.

Style: We´re still early on in the story but I´ve rarely seen exposition done so well. The way the author is slowly rolling out the history of the world, the magic, and the plot is just inspiring. He provides just enough information at the right intervals to keep everything interesting and the plot moving forward without information overload or forcing it. There is still a lot of the world that is unknown to the characters and I'm looking forward to discovering the world with them.

Story: I included a lot of story elements in the style section and I won't rehash it here. There are really interesting story elements that I really enjoy. The author has done a good job of steering the characters into doing what he wants for the story while maintaining the illusion that he isn't in control of what they're doing. There are some really enjoyable hacking scenes which as someone who has very limited knowledge of was very enjoyable.


Grammar: I usually have to mentally correct errors constantly when I've reading online but that wasn't the case here. If there are grammatical errors then they're the sneaky kind.


Characters: We're still learning about them but they seem to be 3 dimensional people who have actual wants, needs, backgrounds, and plans for the future. Even characters that have very limited screentime are more than they appear at first. As I stated earlier, but it bears repeating, is that the characters really feel internally consistent and they do things because it makes sense for them to do it not because it is necessary for the plot.


I wish you could leave a review without any rating attached, particularly in this case. On the whole the book is decent, but I don't think it's for everyone. 

The grammar is fine, no complaints there. The style is... unremarkable? There isn't anything particularly notable about it for better or worse, which to my mind is detrimental. It's better to stand out for your failings than to be unremarkable in mediocrity. 

The characters are fine, they're a little too trope-y for my tastes though. They aren't totally bland, which is better than a lot of stories on here, but you also know exactly who they are as soon as you meet them. Which makes the time spent developing their character feel like filler since you already knew it all if not in exactly those words. 

I haven't really enjoyed the story. Again, it's fine, but there are just a lot of things that stack up in a manner that I don't appreciate. The world building seems to fall in line with the characters, the author has clearly spent time fleshing things out, but there's nothing novel going on. The central mystery of the story starts out intriguing, but grows significantly less so over time. And then we have the magic system. It feels like a bad mashup of magic and cultivation. The cultivation side of it is touched on, but not deeply enough to be interesting and the magic side doesn't have sufficient diversity to be interesting on its own. 

If your magic can only do three things then it's silly to restrict the main cast to just one of the three for a significant length of time, i.e. still a problem in book two. Not only that but then you have diverse effects which get lumped under one of those three things with a lot of hand waving. That's when you know your simplification has overshot in my opinion.  I understand what the author was going for with regards to a more limited scope of power being available on an individual basis with the intention of that driving ingenuity, but that's not what we see. What we get is people shooting magic missle at each other, but oh! Some of them are blue and others are red! Blah. 

On the whole, for me it was a decent time filler, but I'm probably not going to be picking it back up again. This is definitely a personal taste thing though, I never really got sucked into the similar stories that this draws inspiration from, e.g. Steeet Cultivation or Cradle. All well and good, but not at all enthralling to me. 


Very polished looking forward to more

Reviewed at: Chapter 9: The Dark Web

Overall: This is an extremely enjoyable read and one I would recommend. Like all readers who find a great novel like this to read in it's early stages the only real struggle is the small amount of chapters :D.

Style: The flow is great and the format is well done. Very easy to read, understand, and follow along.

Story: There is a ton of world building that I feel we don't know yet, but overall what is presented is enough to get the readers interested. It also provides the expectation that this world will expand into something big someday which gives readers something to look forward to. One thing that I would have liked to see some explanation on who is Talek, and how did he become what I assume is a curse word. Hopefully that is explained in time.

Characters: Each character has their own personality and don't feel cookie cutter at all. The main character feels real and really had me invested in her struggles early on for sure. I legitimately felt bad for the poor girl and her situation further pulling me into the story and wanting more.

Grammar: Couldn't really find any grammar mistakes, if there are some they would be simple and shouldn't bother anyone.


I'm on two minds about the story. On one side the writing is very good, the world building is great, cultivation parts of the story fun.

But on the other side, the two MCs are piles of cliches, and the teenage romance drama is as unoriginal as they come. And that romance drama is such a big part of the story it should have been the main category tag.

Isa Lumitus

The first thing I'd like to say about Web of Secrets is that despite the number of stories I've read, the setting stands out as unique. Normally, any fantasy set in 'modern' times contrives some excuse for why normal people don't notice the magic. Or the story starts with an apocalypse. Not so, here, largely because the author has taken the time to create a new world, rather than having it take place on Earth.

I hesitate to call Web of Secrets as 'cultivation', 'Xianxia', or 'Wuxia', but there is some similarity to the genres. I'd recommend this to anyone who likes those stories, but wants a change from the setting of Fantasy China.


I actually disliked Akari (the main character) for most of the first book. She's smart... but she has a chip on her shoulder, and insists that she knows better than everyone else, in open defiance of evidence to the contrary. This could have sunk the story, except for one thing: The author is not afraid to have her be wrong. Not to spoil anything, but her flaws are very well integrated into the story.

The secondary character, Kalden, I found much more likeable. He was set up as 'the Privilaged Young Master', but he wasn't. He's willing to make jokes at his own expense, yet he also isn't the Idiot Sidekick. I was truly impressed that the author managed to make two characters that were both intelligent, yet so different from each other.


Most of my justification for the style score is in my top paragraph. That said, the author does a good job at fleshing out the world by describing things in terms of things that exist in universe, rather than things from reality. For example, the Shokanese. They seem to be the equivalent of either the Japanese or the Chinese, but neither of those real nations have ever been mentioned.


I don't have a lot to say here, but I will point out that the story's pace changes several times. Each book has a calm beginning, and picks up pace toward the climax, before reaction a resolution. That might seem like a minor thing, but a story needs more than just climactic struggles.


I'll admit that I'm not particularly pedantic about spelling and grammar, but I've seen very few typos or patches of poor phrasing. I've been a beta-reader before, and this reads like the author has at least two of them.


This is a very interesting beginning to what I assume is a very interesting story.

Right off the bat, Akari is the underdog, which readers can relate with and appreciate. You're introduced to her character, her motives, and the world quickly and precisely, which can also be appreciated.

The worldbuilding is clear right out the starting gate. Three ranks and three distinct lifestyles, which are shown immediately with such a simple line of: "She even spotted a cluster of Golds lounging on the benches, taking up twice as much space as they needed." With that line alone, the reader just knows the type of people most Golds are, and I liked that a lot.

The only thing I'll comment on with these first two chapters is the first chapter dives straight into Akari's motives without allowing the reader to understand her motivation. Chapter two quickly shows you the why but following chapter one, it seemed out of order. I think I would've almost liked chapter two as chapter one and vice versa.

Nevertheless, it's still an interesting start to a story, allowing the reader to see the world and the character immediately, giving a character the reader can root for and relate to, showing a world not so different from our own.

I would also like to comment on the narrative voice. The POV is third person; however, the style and voice make it seem like Akari is the one narrating, and I thoroughly enjoyed that. It was easy to read!

The first chapter will definitely hook you. Give it a read for yourself!


I love stories tht start with the MC at the bottom and crawling their way up. The difficulty of the training also makes this good for me. I will be adding this to my favorites so i can follow along. 


The world so far has an interesting build with a grand secret and little ones that the MC finds out along the way. The martial systems hasn't been fully explained yet but the mystery is part of the fun.